Crews will begin construction next week on a redesign of Prospect Park's loop path that city officials hope will lead to fewer conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
The changes, announced by the city Department of Transportation on Tuesday, impact the section known as the East Side Drive, which runs for two miles between Grand Army Plaza and Park Circle on the park's southern end. The stretch has several ruts and potholes, and it's being repaved for the first time in nearly a decade.
The new design will launch as a pilot program, and creates room on each side of the busy path for pedestrians, who are currently sequestered to one side. Cyclists will also get more space and will share the center of the road with the few vehicles that are still allowed to drive in the park.
Fergus Mcardle, 28, cycles two to four times a week in the park and likes the idea of the new roadway configuration. But he said people need to know how to use the loop safely.
“I think there needs to be a little bit of education,” said Mcardle. “This is the only place, pretty much, to bike safely in Brooklyn, and there’s still a lot of accidents, either because of people jogging or cycling the wrong way. Obviously, the pavement has been an issue for quite a while.”
The work will begin on Sunday, March 12, and will run each night from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. so as not to disrupt park use. Officials expect it to take five weeks to complete.
City and Parks officials plan to monitor the new design for 18 months and decide whether to expand it to the west side of the park.
The redesign came out of a $15,000 study, a project chosen by central Brooklyn residents and funded through the city's participatory budgeting process.
“The East Drive really needs some repair, it’s long overdue,” said Morgan Monaco, president of the Prospect Park Alliance and Park Administrator. “Like anything it’s going to be an adjustment.”
Monaco hopes the new design will prompt zooming cyclists to slow down in the park. While there are no restrictions on cycling groups, she’s hoping there will be a “gentleman’s agreement” with cyclists who train in the park during early hours.
North Woods, 25, who lives on the Lower East Side but bikes through Prospect Park every day, said he thinks the changes will lead to more conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
“No one can be trusted to stay in their lane … it’s going to be chaos,” said Woods. “Pedestrians are going to walk in the middle and cyclists are going to ride on the outside.”
Editor's note: This story was updated with details on the study behind the path's redesign.